Peruvian Papa Rellena: Everything You Need to Know

Papa Rellenas are popular in the Caribbean and South America. Apart from being a common street food in Peru, the dish that also works as an appetizer is also famous in Cuba and Chile as they follow the same concept.

But what is Peruvian Papa Rellena?

Papa Rellena is a popular Peruvian appetizer that is delicious and filling enough to act as a complete meal. You can make this meal bite-sized or have them extra large for your friends and family. The best thing about this dish is that you can experiment with different ingredients to your liking. 

This dish is among the most popular meals in Peru. Read on to learn more about the Peruvian Papa Rellena, its origin, and how to make this delightful dish. 

What Is Peruvian Papa Rellena?

Peruvian Favorite, Papa Rellena
Peruvian Favorite, Papa Rellena

Peruvian Papa Rellena consists of a mashed potato that is stuffed with spicy meat then fried. They look like mini potatoes at first.

This dish is an excellent way of using leftover mashed potato and is often served with salsa criollo, which is a quick pickled onion side. 

The paprika and cumin spices in the mince add that unique flavor, while the potato gets its crispy texture from breadcrumbs. 

What Is the Origin of Papa Rellena?

The history of Papa Rellena goes back to the years when there was a Pacific War between Chile and Peru.

A war that took place in 1879 had Peruvian soldiers go for long distances on remote roads to hide from the Chilean soldiers.

The Chilean soldiers wouldn’t know of their position and couldn’t determine where the next attack would occur. 

They often carried different types of food, but they always had ground meat, potatoes, and condiments like spices, salt, and chili.

These Peruvian troops always seasoned their meat and wrapped it in boiled potatoes. 

The combination was protected and covered with some fabric for transportation. During lunch, they would find a place to set up a fire and heat the filled potatoes, also known as papa rellenas. 

When the Peruvian soldiers got back home, they brought this dish with them. Over the years, papa rellenas have become popular in countries like Colombia and Chile.

However, they modified the version of the Peruvian papa rellena by adding extra ingredients and spices. 

You’ll notice that the preparation and presentation are different depending on the country you visit.

For example, the Cubans stuff their potato balls with picadillo-a minced meat preparation popular in Spain and Latin America.

Puerto Ricans refer to the dish as Rellena de papa, which they stuff with ground beef and cheese.

They then cover the potato balls with raw eggs before rolling them in cornflour and frying them. 

How to Prepare Peruvian Papa Rellena

Traditional Papa Rellena Peruvian Dish
Traditional Papa Rellena Peruvian Dish

For you to prepare the papa rellenas, you’ll need these ingredients:

  • An egg
  • 750 grams (26.46 oz) of potatoes
  • 250 grams (8.82 oz) minced beef
  • 40 grams (1.41 oz) finely chopped onion
  • 40 grams (1.41 oz) raisins
  • 125ml (4.23 oz) beef stock
  • One jalapeno finely chopped
  • One crushed garlic clove
  • Flour for coating
  • Pepper and salt to taste
  • One tablespoon vegetable oil
  • A half teaspoon cumin powder
  • A quarter teaspoon paprika


To get started, you’ll need to:

  1. Place the raisins in a bowl and add a half cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for ten minutes, then drain the water.
  2. Place the potatoes in a huge pot of water and bring to boil. Let the potatoes boil until tender, which should take about ten minutes. Drain the excess water from the potatoes.Mash the potatoes and allow them to cool.
  3. In a separate pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add in the garlic, onion, and pepper to cook gently until soft. Pour in the paprika and cumin, and let this cook for a minute.
  4. Pour in the minced beef and allow the meat to cook until brown. Put the beef stock and drained raisins into the beef.
  5. Combine the mixture and allow it to simmer for at least 15 minutes until the liquid has evaporated—season with pepper and salt. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool. Take the mashed potatoes and add the egg—season with pepper and salt.
  6. For you to make papa rellena, take the mashed potato, the size of a golf ball. Dust the palm of your hands with flour to ensure that it’s not sticky. Take the mashed potato, the size of a golf ball. Flatten the ball to make the shape of a circle.
  7. Put a well in the center and add the meat filling. Cover the potato to make it resemble a peeled potato. If you find it difficult to close the potato, add more mashed potato to the sides and try covering it. Repeat the process until all the ingredients are over. The meat filling should be enough for at least ten potatoes.
  8. Heat a pot with vegetable oil. Take the potatoes and roll them in flour. Deep fry them for ten minutes or until they are golden brown at a temperature of 180 degrees celsius.
  9. Remove the papa rellenas from the oil and put them on kitchen paper to drain excess oil. Place them in a container where they’ll remain warm until ready to serve. You can serve them with plain rice or salsa Criolla. You can also add eggplant, aji Amarillo peppers, olives, and parsley as you desire.
  10. Serve the papa rellenas cold, warm, or hot, depending on your preference. 

Tips for Making the Best Papa Rellenas

Papa Rellena Popular Peruvian Food
Papa Rellena Classic Peruvian Food

If you’re looking to make papa rellenas that are yummy and inviting, here are some tips to help you out.

Find the Right Potatoes

Good potatoes are key to making the perfect papa rellenas. You should find potatoes that are floury and waxy.

It’s essential to find a balance between dry floury to waxy potatoes to get the right consistency and texture. 

That’s because a too dry potato will cause the papa rellena to fall apart when cooking, or you may find it challenging to get it into an oblong shape.

Also, waxier potatoes won’t give you a smooth texture. Some best options are the Yukon Gold potato and red gold potato variety.

If you are experiencing a potato mixture that is crumbly, you can add more canola or sunflower oil to the mixture.

That will give you moisture to work with and hold the potato in place. 

Always Use Your Hands

Although mashing the potatoes with a spatula or wooden spoon is okay, using your hands at the end gives you the best texture.

You can also shape and flatten the potatoes using your hands. All you need is to cup the mashed potato mixture with the filling to close the gap and seal the filling inside. 

Remember That It Takes Time to Make This Recipe

You need patience while making this meal. It won’t work as a weeknight meal, but you can opt for meal prep in advance.

If you’re planning on making this recipe ahead of time, you can start by making the filling ahead of time.

Note that you cannot make potatoes ahead of time as they tend to dry out when kept in the refrigerator, which makes them difficult to work with. 

You can meal prep the filling and store it in the freezer or refrigerator. Also, you can prepare the vegetarian version of papa rellena and store it in the fridge.

To reheat, you’ll need to place it in a 350 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. 

You can make papa rellenas for large groups, but you’ll need to do this in batches. That means cooking them in advance and freezing them ahead of time. 


Peruvian Favorites, Papa Rellena & Chicha Morada
Peruvian Favorites, Papa Rellena & Chicha Morada

Papa rellenas are a classic Peruvian dish and are not difficult to make. You can make this recipe using leftover mashed potatoes.

What’s more, you can create a vegetarian version of this dish. Don’t let the list of ingredients discourage you.

Although the recipe will take longer, the results will be worth it. Pour yourself your favorite Peruvian drink and you’ll be set.

Are you a seafood lover? If so, read Parihuela, Peruvian Seafood Soup

And don’t forget dessert, here are 9 Peruvian Desserts You’ll Die For! Peru delivers such culinary goodness.


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